Why No Word?

Why I don't have a Word version of my résumé available.

I often have recruiters asking me to send them a copy of my résumé in Word format. I often tell them that I have html, ASCII, postscript, gzipped postscript, and PDF, then ask if one of these formats is acceptable. Usually, it is. If it isn't, I suddenly decide that I don't wish to have any contact with that recruiter or company.

Why do I do this? Why do I intentionally make it harder on both myself and others, especially when people want to give me a job?

There are many reasons why. First and foremost, I don't own a copy of Word. I don't run any Microsoft operating systems. I routinely work on Unix systems, either Solaris, Linux, FreeBSD, or Irix. My home machines all run Linux, or FreeBSD, or OS/2, or some other operating system. None of which Microsoft supports with any products. And any machine I've built in the last several years gets either Linux or FreeBSD (et. al.) installed onto virgin hard drives. Why? Because they're solutions which work for me. They allow me to do what I want to accomplish, without unnecessarily tying my hands.

Another reason is cost. Yes, I work full time. That doesn't mean I want to spend several hundred dollars on software that I find slow and difficult to use. By using the tools that are freely available for most *nix versions and even Windows, I can create a much better product, and have it be readable by more people.

A third reason is ease of updates. Right now, I maintain my résumé using my favorite text editor, and can do so while remotely logged into my machine. Then I run it through LaTeX, to produce a .dvi file, from which I generate the postscript, gzipped postscript, and PDF versions of my résumé. The HTML version is basically a cut and paste of changes I make to the LaTeX sources, and the text version is a dump of the HTML. The HTML output from Word is hideous, to say the least. Saving as a text file is almost as bad.

Control is another reason. By this, I mean that I control what information is in the file, hidden or not. Most people don't realize that Word stores change information in each and every Word document. Anyone who has a clue can pull up old versions of a document you send them, just by selecting menu options in Word. How embarrassing if they found an old love letter, or someone's résumé whose format you decided to "borrow".

There's also the issue of universality. Word is, and for the foreseeable future will always be, tied to the Windows platform. As I said earlier, I don't use Windows. Sure, I could get a Mac version, but, well, I'm not much of a Mac guy right now, and any Mac I did get would likely end up with LinuxPPC on it anyway. Plus, everyone and his Aunt Rosie can read either text or html formats. Everyone who has a web browser (and you wouldn't be reading this otherwise), can easily view both, including the visually impaired, especially since I make an effort to not use excessive graphics or bizarre formatting. Plus, anyone with a GUI and practically any modern operating system can view Adobe's .pdf format--for free. So people who want to see the resume the way it will appear (always, regardless of printer) on paper can look at the pdf version.

I've attempted, numerous times, to make a "Word-compatible" version of my resume by converting it to Microsoft's Rich Text Format. The trouble is, there are very few tools that can convert to this format. Most people seem to want to write tools which convert from it to another, friendlier format. I don't know why. I just know that the results I get are always hideously ugly, and something hideously ugly isn't something I want my name associated with.

Does this make me difficult to get along with? Surprisingly, most people I've dealt with don't think so. Most are happy with the text, html, or pdf versions of my résumé. I've spoken with friends who routinely run Linux and need to deliver documentation to customers. Almost all find PDF to be perfectly acceptable. I suspect it's because it's doubtful Adobe or one of the web browser manufacturers will suddenly change their specs so much as to make it near impossible to read older documents. But, I could be wrong.

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Michael A. Gurski <(opt. [firstname].)[lastname]@pobox.com>
Last modified: Fri Aug 24 00:10:24 2001
Copyright © 2001 - Michael A. Gurski. All Rights Reserved.